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Coconut Chicken Soup

June 11, 2024

At once complex and simple, pungent, creamy and spicy—our coconut chicken soup, better known as Tom Kha Gai is comfort in a bowl.


Coconut Chicken Soup Tom Kha Gai in a bowl with basil and rice and a spoon

Make This Easy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup For Dinner Tonight

We all have a handful of meals that have made a lasting impression on us— because of who we shared them with, or where we were when we first tasted them—and Tom Kha Gai, a Thai coconut chicken soup, is one of those dishes for me.

I first tasted this piquant soup from a little joint in Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. I was a young nanny at the time, and there was a lot I had yet to discover in the food world. I am grateful to the family I was working for who played a large part in opening my eyes to the wonders of Thai food, and this soup specifically.

It is the first dish I remember really craving. There is something divine about the way the vivid, bold flavors of this creamy Thai coconut chicken soup mingle together, and it's also a wonderful excuse to get out of your comfort zone and try some ingredients you might not be familiar with.

Ingredients laid out for Coconut Chicken Soup Tom Kha Gai
Chicken stock, coconut broth, lemon grass, red thai curry and ginger in a soup pot.
Coconut Chicken Soup Tom Kha Gai with mushrooms in a soup pot

What is Tom Kha Gai?

In short, it’s a creamy, coconut chicken soup, imbued with the bright flavors of Thailand. Bold, verdant, spicy and out-of-the-ordinary flavors are what make this Tom Kha Gai so deliciously memorable. Although you should be able to find all the ingredients we call for in our version of Tom Kha Gai at your neighborhood market, we encourage you to visit an Asian specialty store in your area and consider seeking out truly authentic Thai ingredients. The soup will be delicious either way, but it's so fun to cook with new ingredients! Have fun playing around with the flavors and be adventurous.

Kaffir lime leaves: take it to the next level by subbing kaffir lime leaves for the lime zest. You’ll typically find them dried, and you use them the same way you would bay leaves—add them to the broth as it simmers, and remove them before serving.

Thai basil: swap Thai basil for Italian sweet basil (which is more commonly found in supermarkets). Spicier and bolder, it will add an herbaceous punch.

Galangal root: galangal—which looks a lot like ginger—can be used in place of (you guessed it) ginger to give this creamy coconut chicken soup a deeply authentic, complex tang. That elusive, slightly sharp, sour-ish zippy flavor that Thai dishes often have comes—in part—from galangal. Simply slice it into coins—just as we tell you to do with the ginger—and let it work its pungent magic on your homemade Tom Kha Gai.

Lemongrass: adding a uniquely citrusy note to our creamy Thai coconut chicken soup, this stalk-y grass is becoming more and more easy to find—your local supermarket may even have it in the produce section! To prep your lemongrass, just snip off the spindle-y top and base, then crush the stalk with the side of your knife to release its fragrant oils. Slice the lemongrass into 1- or 2-inch pieces and add to your broth. Although it’s edible, lemongrass stalks can tough, so you may want to remove them before tucking into your Tom Kha Gai.

Fish sauce: or nam pla in Thai, fish sauce is a key component to this Thai coconut chicken soup. Made from salted, fermented fish, it’s powerfully savory and a pillar of Thai cuisine. A little goes a long way, so one small bottle will last you a long time.

Coconut Chicken Soup Tom Kha Gai in a pot with a wooden spoon

How Do You Make Thai Coconut Soup?

This TMP version of Tom Kha Gai is the result of many years of trial and error, and is the closest I have come to anything as rich and beautifully balanced as the soup I fell in love with so long ago. It's simple to make, complex in flavor, light and soothing, yet punchy, exotic, but still, somehow, not intimidating to those with sensitive palates.

Track down your nearest Asian market and make an adventure out of tracking down the ingredients mentioned above! Yes, you can totally make this soup without making a special trip, but they make it extra special.

Prep your ingredients: Chop, grate, squeeze, measure. Our biggest tip? Slicing your chicken when it’s slightly frozen allows you to easily get nice thin pieces, which is ideal for a soup like this.

20 Minutes, Start-to-Finish:

Once your prep is finished, the soup will come together super-fast! Bring your broth and coconut milk (full-fat guarantees a deliciously creamy soup, but you could use light coconut milk if you prefer) to a boil along with some aromatics, toss in the remaining ingredients and let a nice little simmer do the rest. Homemade Tom Kha Gai on the table—faster than delivery for sure, and maybe even better (if we do say so ourselves).

Bonus: This Thai coconut chicken soup can easily be tweaked to comply with a host of special dietary concerns to create a dish that literally everyone you know can enjoy.

Coconut Chicken Soup Tom Kha Gai in a bowl with basil, mushrooms and lemon grass.

This Chicken Soup is Comfort in a Bowl.

Soup is one of those meals that easily feeds a crowd. It’s an amazing gesture of hospitality to invite some friends over, pull out a stack of bowls and spoons and just enjoy one another’s company over a simple supper. If a large crowd isn't in the cards for the night you serve this Tom Kha Gai, the resulting leftovers will provide for many delicious and soothing lunches or dinners in the days to follow (in my husband’s words “multiple nights of leftover greatness”).

At once complex and simple, pungent, creamy, filling, spicy—our Tom Kha Gai embodies comfort in a bowl. I even have a friend who swears it the cures the common cold (no promises, of course, but it works for her!). So go ahead, step out of your comfort zone and have some fun playing with the flavors of this soup. You'll thank us later.

Coconut Chicken Soup Tom Ka Gai with two spoons and a linen
Coconut Chicken Soup Tom Kha Gai with mushrooms and basil

Craving More Thai Food?

Coconut Chicken Soup Tom Kha Gai in a bowl with thai basil lemongrass, rice and a spoon

Did You Love This Coconut Chicken Soup?

If you make our Tom Kha Gai, we’d love to hear about it! Be sure to snap a photo, add it to your Instagram feed or stories and tag us @themodernproper and #themodernproper if you do. Also, feel free to leave a comment on the post and tell your friends where you discovered the recipe.

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Coconut Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Gai)

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  20 min
  • Calories: 433


  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can full fat coconut milk
  • 8 thin slices of fresh ginger or galangal
  • 6 (2-inch) pieces lemongrass, tough outer parts removed, and slightly crushed with the back of a knife
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, very thinly sliced (see Note)
  • ½ pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice (from 4 limes)
  • ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • Cooked white rice (optional)
  • Chili paste, such as Sambal Oelek or red pepper flakes, for serving (optional)


  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the chicken stock, coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass, curry paste, sugar and onion and bring to a boil.

  2. Add the chicken, mushrooms and fish sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is white and firm, about 4 minutes.

  3. Add the salt, lime zest, lime juice and basil and simmer until the basil is wilted, about 3 minutes.

  4. Serve the soup over white rice with additional basil and chili paste, if using.

Note: Chicken breast can be easily sliced thin, if chicken is slightly frozen.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories433
  • Protein45 g
  • Carbohydrates25 g
  • Total Fat22 g
  • Dietary Fiber2 g
  • Cholesterol66 mg
  • sodium2003 mg
  • Total Sugars14 g

Coconut Chicken Soup

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Matthew

    Is 5 tablespoons fish sauce correct? Seems like that would add way too much fish and salt tastes.

    Yes it is but feel free to start with 2 and add to your taste preference from there.

  • Laurabeth

    My local markets have a lemongrass paste. What would the exchange be for the lemongrass stalks that aren't available in my area currently.

    You can use 2 tsp of paste for every 2 stalks of lemongrass

  • Kat

    Tom kha soup is an all time favorite take-out dish for my husband and I. I was so excited to see this recipe but nervous that it wouldn’t be as good as the real thing. But it’s literally PERFECT. So happy I can make this favorite at home now!!

    YAY! Thanks kat, we are so happy you both love it!

  • Shanya

    Thank you for an amazing recipe! Absolutely delicious. I made a couple of changes as follows. Subbed fish sauce for soy due to allergy, 2 tbs rather than 5. Used Thai basil but reduced amount because it has a very strong flavour. Used coconut cream because it's what I had on hand and didn't find I needed all the lime juice, 1 lime was enough. I added in a bunch of veg (potato, cauliflower, broccoli, capsicum) and cooked the whole chicken breast in the soup then took out to shred and returned to pot. Absolutely amazing!

    Thanks Shanya, glad you enjoyed it and that all your changes worked well!

  • Aleena

    So good! I’ve made so many of your recipes after discovering your site and each one so far has been 10/10. Thanks for all you do!

    Thank you so much Aleena! We are so happy you love our recipes!

  • Jamie

    I sautéed the veggies before putting in the rest of the ingredients for the soup. This soup was amazing! Thank you for a new favorite staple recipe!

    Thanks Jamie, we are so happy you loved it and that it becomes a staple!

  • Angela

    Loved this!!! Didn’t have red curry paste but it still tasted great. Thanks for sharing!!

    Thanks for trying this out Angela! We are so happy you loved it!